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Thriver's Spotlight: Julie

Welcome to our Thriver's Spotlight where we highlight an experience of a Health Navigator community member that shares our values of inspiration, forward thinking, motivation, and healing the mind, body, and spirit.

Julie found the Health Navigators after being diagnosed with Sarcoma in 2019. She is a long-time member and supporter of our community.

Julie believes in all forms of medicine, including the Radical Remission approach to healing and loves learning new approaches to health and wholeness.

We recently interviewed Julie who shares her story to provide inspiration.

Julie and her husband with their four kids.

Please share some background about your diagnosis:

I first felt the painless lump in May 2019, after nursing my 9-month-old daughter. I wasn’t overly concerned and felt confident the lump was a clogged duct from breastfeeding. After trying all the clogged duct remedies and having the lump feel distinctly larger, I decided to see my doctor for a medical opinion.

Two weeks later, I was getting my first-ever mammogram, followed by an ultrasound and biopsy. Unfortunately, as is the case more often than people realize, my biopsy results were inconclusive and a lumpectomy was needed to yield a concrete diagnosis. Fifteen days after my biopsy, on July 24, after eleven weeks of tests, scans, and procedures, my surgeon called with my pathology results. The painless, mystery lump that I felt months before had finally been given a name: Sarcoma. Sarcomas are a rare family of malignancies, representing 1% of all cancers.

A post-diagnosis PET scan revealed I was dealing with a singular tumor in my left breast. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief as I was told that if I followed the standard-of-care plan of surgery and radiation, the cure rate for my stage and diagnosis were very good. It looked like after a short treatment cycle, I could return to my normal life.

Unfortunately, three-weeks into a six-week course of proton radiation, I discovered a new lump in my radiation field. After more tests and scans, I was diagnosed with recurrent sarcoma, which required further surgery and five months of systemic chemotherapy.

Four months after my chemotherapy ended, a surveillance CT scan found a 7mm tumor in my left lung. With this metastatic diagnosis, my prognosis took a major turn with sarcomas having a 15% chance of 5-year survival.

After undergoing a thoracotomy (lung surgery) to remove the metastatic tumor, I dove into pursuing any and every therapy, conventional, non-conventional, and any type of healing technique I could find. It was during this period that I was introduced to the Radical Remission principles, which I fully embraced and proved to be life-changing in many ways! In the last three years, I’ve experimented with a variety of traditional therapies, clinical trials, and alternative medicine modalities. I believe it is the combination of traditional and non-traditional efforts that have kept me NED since my lung tumor was removed two years ago.

What resources have been most helpful to you?

Resources that promote networking between patients have been the most helpful for me. I have found great benefit in connecting with long-term survivors, patient advocacy groups, and other patients pursuing conventional and integrative therapies. Some of the smartest, most helpful people I’ve met, have been patients who are a few steps ahead of me. Networking with other patients has allowed me to quickly identify new resources, practitioners, treatments, and healing modalities.

Connecting with others has also given me a sense of community and friendship, which is healing in and of itself. As I always say, cancer is the worst club, but has the best members.

What has been the most meaningful healing modality that you use to aid your personal healing?

This is a tough question as I have found the most benefit in combining a variety of healing modalities. While it’s become my passion project to personally experience as many “healing modalities” as I can find and afford, I believe that the first step is turning your mind into a healing asset. It was through the Health Navigators Mind Over Medicine book study that I realized how the mental aspect of a chronic or terminal illness could not be ignored. Since that time, I’ve pursued meditation, hypnosis, visualization, gratitude practices, and cognitive behavioral therapy strategies to help soften the anxiety that rides along with a cancer diagnosis and to center my mind and body on the desired outcome of health and healing that I want to achieve.

How are you living your life differently after your diagnosis and why?

To say cancer has been life changing is an understatement. There was a moment in my story when I simply did not know how I could continue. I felt like I had become a shell of my former self as I struggled with the fact that my dreams for the future had been ripped away. I found it difficult to relate to others around me. I was overcome with anxiety. I was living a fear-filled life. I began doubting the faith that had played a prominent role in my life. Over time, I decided that I deserved more. If my days were going to be fewer than expected, it became my mission to fill them with as much peace, health, and happiness as I could find. Little by little, I took steps to explore any healing modality that I could find. With that curious mindset I came to discover a new passion for health, wellness, and advocacy. I found new interests like juicing and meditation. I recommitted to exercise, but unlike previously, my motivation was not weight loss or outward appearance, but for the immune enhancing, stress reducing benefits it provides. I proactively took steps to reduce unnecessary stress in my life, including leaving a long-standing marketing career. And most importantly, my diagnosis has put me on a path to realizing my purpose, which is to leave the cancer world better than I found it by helping people navigate the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of their diagnosis.

What is one thing you would share with someone newly diagnosed?

First, you are not your diagnosis. You are not the statistics that accompany your diagnosis. You are not the same as someone else with your diagnosis. You are you and your experience will be uniquely yours. A cancer diagnosis can make you feel like you’ve lost control of your life. There’s probably more that you CAN control than you realize. Making connections with others, particularly those with the same philosophies as you, can help identify options, doctors, therapies, and provide a community to remind you that you are never alone.

Thanks so much to Julie for sharing her story with us and being a valuable member of our community supporting others, sharing what you've learned and being a mentor to those a few steps behind you.

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1 Comment

Kimberly Haftl
Kimberly Haftl
Oct 14, 2022

Thanks for sharing, Julie. It's sometimes so hard to organize thoughts while experiencing this journey, much less putting it in writing with just the right words. Continued health and happiness to you and your beautiful family! 😊 Kim Haftl

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